The Charles County Planning Commission voted unanimously Monday evening to send a zoning text amendment that would allow both commercial and residential property owners to install solar and wind energy systems to the county commissioners for approval.
The board also unanimously voted in favor of the reclassification of the zoning for the Waldorf Technology Park from planned employment park to mixed use to allow for residential development on the property, and the reclassification of 38.73 acres at Vernon Road and Western Parkway in Waldorf from business park to residential, high density.
In all matters, Charles County Planning and Growth Management staff recommended the board accept the proposed changes and pass them forward for final approval.
Regarding the proposed energy changes, member Joan Jones questioned how excess energy generated would be transferred from the small property owners to Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative’s energy grid. PGM staff member Kirby Blass, who prior to Jones’ question said that SMECO had voiced its approval of the plan, explained that excess energy would be sold back to the grid, in a “direct contract” between SMECO and the property owners. This in turn would reduce the property owner’s electricity bill.
Member Joe Tieger questioned what would happen if a residential homeowner wanted to “cover the rest of the property in solar panels,” resulting in “a potential income stream” from the sale of excess energy. Tieger urged Blass to consider developing a system for regulation, to which Planning Director Stephen Ball said they would consider adding language to clarify what constitutes small and large usage. Charles County Deputy County Attorney Elizabeth Theobalds said she was “hesitant” to allow the language change, given that she felt the current proposal did a good enough job outlining the guidelines for different usage sizes. The measure ultimately passed without the change.
Member Kenneth Smith said he “had difficulty” with the name of the Waldorf Technology Park.
“The name implies something different” than the park’s actual intended use, Smith said. He questioned the park’s size and configuration.
“In terms of sharpening the pencil and deciding … what will best serve the market, they just don’t have that specificity yet in their planning,” said attorney Steve Scott, the applicant’s legal counsel.
The measure passed as it was presented, as did the board’s last item for consideration for the Vernon Road project.
Chairman Stephen Bunker and member Bob Mitchell were not present Monday.
The board also heard a presentation from PGM staff member Cathy Thompson on changes to Port Tobacco Village.
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